Thursday, November 19, 2009

Vladimir Nabokov, The Original of Laura (designed by Chip Kidd)

Wow. I've never rushed home to the blog over a book like this. My copy of Nabokov's The Original of Laura came in the mail only 5 hours ago and I'm still overwhelmingly excited to share this one with you.

So, back-story: this book was originally written on a stack of index cards and was never meant to be released (I'm not positive, but I think someone told me Nabokov wrote most of his books on index cards...). Nabokov insisted that his son burn it when he died, but Dmitri Nabokov resisted. And now, many years later, it has made its way into bookshops.

I posted the amazing cover when I first saw it on amazon a few months ago. In the comments I was informed that it was done by none other than the great Chip Kidd! Should have got me thinking, but no... I was not expecting this.

The book is printed on heavy paper and each page is a photo of one of Nabokov's index cards. Below the card is a text-facsimile of the handwritten cards. Beautiful, and also explains the thickness of the book.

But wait, there's more:

Every index card is perforated! You can pull these all out and read them in a stack!

So subtle, so perfect. This book is a treasure. Thank you Mr. Kidd.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Coralie Bickford-Smith's Hardback Classics series for Penguin UK

This week we'll take a look at another Penguin classics series. This one seems to be officially called the "Clothbound Classics"; the series collects ten 19th century novels, all bound in beautifully patterned cloth. The titles included are:

Madame Bovary
Great Expectations
Wuthering Heights
Sense and Sensibility
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Pride and Prejudice
Crime and Punishment
Jane Eyre
The Picture of Dorian Gray

Would you believe these were designed by the same artist who is responsible for "Ten Tales of the Supernatural" set that Penguin did last year, which was also the topic of my first blog post here? I'm stunned by Coralie Bickford-Smith's skill and versatility; she's able to adapt so keenly to her task at hand, whether its adventure novels or elegant Victorian ficiton. Another thing that I keep coming back to is the sequencing of the books and colors. The spine colors look so well against their neighbors that I can't imagine seeing this set in any other order.

If you liked these, take a look here: her site is finally live! And, warning, unless you want to max out your Christmas list this year stay away from the "clothbound series 2" link. Be still, my heart!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The 1967 Game Calendar by Joe Brainard and Kenward Elmslie

A birthday gift this year from my girlfriend, the 1967 Game Calendar is one of the earlier printed collaborations between New York School artist Joe Brainard and poet Kenward Elmslie. Published in 1967 by the Boke Press, the 1967 Game Calendar is a 12 page collection of calendar-girl drawings by Brainard accompanied by loose quatrains by Elmslie.

More than anything else in my library (and really any book I've ever seen), I feel the 1967 Game Calendar captures everything perfect about the spirit of collaboration. It's a funny, simple book that makes you want to get together with friends or loved ones and start projects. The drive behind the Game Calendar seems not to sell copies but more to prove to the creators that they could make something together. Its artistic ambition is beautifully eclipsed by the friendship and love that went into creating it, and because of that they managed to make something that's hugely inspiring.

Brainard embodied the interconnectivity between poetry and art and seemed to settle very comfortably and confidently in the 60s as a sort of artistic accompanist. Brainard did book covers and illustrations for scores of poets and writers in New York, all while compiling a mixed-media oeuvre of his own. His solo work ranged from collage and assemblage to comics and writing--his series of "I Remember" publications are some of the most honest and original books I've ever had the pleasure to read. I highly recommend checking out his work--there will certainly be more to come on this blog.